Sunday, December 30, 2007

77; Annoyance

Sometimes our family gets on our nerves. We should expect that they would. After all, few people know us better our family.

Annoyance is a funny thing. Oftentimes people annoy one another without being aware of it. You could bring it to their attention, but then if they were annoying you by accident they’ll likely be hurt. There is an interaction in Jane Austen’s Emma, between the young Emma and her friend Miss Bates which struck me as just this sort of thing. The two of them, amongst other friends, agree to play a game where one must say three things, or something like that. Miss Bates inquires if dull things are permitted; stating that if that is the case then she’ll be alright in the game. Emma counters by saying that her difficulty will be limiting herself to just three.

“Ah!—well—to be sure. Yes, I see what she means, (turning to Mr. Knightley,) and I will try to hold my tongue. I must make myself very disagreeable, or she would not have said such a thing to an old friend."

Emma was certainly in bad form to have voiced her opinion of the dull Miss Bates to her face. Should she have, instead, saved it for behind her back?

Let’s get hypothetical. You know someone who annoys you, who you do not get on well with. There may be no specific incident that sticks out, there’s just something about them, how they talk, their mannerisms, their interactions, what have you, which sets you off. You find yourself often in their presence, and that presence is irritable.

Would you be comfortable voicing your complaints to them, your annoyance? Would it do more harm or ill to gripe and bitch behind their backs? Yet, people do not seek confrontation. Instead they stew as prunes in a pot do, often feeling as though an analogous reaction was affecting them. There is something unhealthy in such a decision. We may consider the utility or health of turning ourselves into prunes over other people.

I do believe that we can make the world a better place. Should we start on the annoying people? Is such a problem solvable? Of course not. Some people get on your nerves, but not your friends. Others get on only some people’s nerves, but not everyone’s. You know, like certain Presidents. We must also remember that in all likelihood you get on someone’s nerves.

Some wisdom from Jane Wagner: “I think we developed language because of our deep down need to complain.” People, most of the time, can think of ways their lives could be better. Curse that highly developed reasoning brain of ours, it can come up with ideas of a better life. If people wonder why rich people still feel unfulfilled, my guess is this is why. So, to pass time while we choose what card to throw down, we complain. We may call it small talk, if like. Small talk, if you look at it long enough, appears to be a very civil argument. Most conversations wouldn’t exist without disagreements or comparisons. That’s the other branch of the fork: we like to argue and complain, and then we discuss the differences that lead us to do so. All part of our ability to judge situations we think are better than our own.

Okay, this one’s getting long, so I better wrap her up. Here’s the point. People are unhappy, have been, and most likely will always be unhappy. Since they are unhappy they complain, for reasons that may range from the notion ‘misery loves company’ to the biological fact that when young creatures are upset they voice it so as to get things to change. Complaining, and I’m going out on a limb on this, is some attempt to affect change of situation.

If you are going to complain about someone annoying you, then, you are voicing the fact that you want to affect change in your situation. And, since your situation is dependent upon another person’s autonomy you will need to get your point across to them is you wish the change to occur. Were you ever upset about something and not voice it as a child? If your parents were like mine when you finally did let it all out, as people must do, they probably countered with the facts: they are not a mind-reader.

Sadly, they were right (I hope, jury’s still out on some of my family members). Most people aren’t hyper-sensitive to other people. In fact, most are just kinda thick, since, hey, we’re busy thinking about ourselves. So if someone annoys you, family or otherwise, my only recommendation is to approach them about it. Try not to be snarky or sarcastic, anything demeaning won’t get you anywhere, and is more likely to lead to those hurtful cases. No, just be blunt and honest. Let them know how you feel, tell them what it is, specifically, that annoys you.

Who knows how they’ll react. They may blow up in your face. They may not speak to you for a while, or throw out accusations of your own. Hopefully you’ll get the latter, since the best-case scenario is sitting down and talking it out with them. If they have had issues with you as well that makes the process a lot easier. That way the conversation doesn’t feel like a one-sided blame-fest. And, as I said before, most likely, you’re annoying too.

We won’t rid the world of annoying people anytime soon, but we can improve our lives by letting others know and having them let us know when we all get on each other’s nerves. Rather than draw this column out any longer I’ll kill it here; my annoyance having taken two pages to work out.

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